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Annabelle Theobald

International cooperation at CISPA

People and systems are increasingly interconnected across the globe. For this reason, research into the security of the digital space and the trustworthiness of artificial intelligence cannot stop at national borders. In this cover story of our latest CISPA Zine, we show you a few examples of CISPA researchers collaborating with researchers and industrial companies from around the world. You can also click through the digital edition of our latest Zine to find even out more.

"At CISPA, the exchange with international experts in various fields is part of everyday life", explains Miriam Menzel. Among other things, Miriam  also coordinates cooperation in the French-German Center for Cybersecurity (FGCC), which was founded in 2020. The center's key research topics include European internet and cryptography standards, European operating systems for the protection of critical infrastructures as well as privacy protection. The scientific lead for the FGCC on the German side is CISPA-Faculty Professor Dr. Antoine Joux. He is certain: "This cooperation not only enables groundbreaking research, but it also fosters the Franco-German friendship."

If it works on a small scale, it will also work on a large scale: Called “ELSA-European Lighthouse on Secure and Safe AI”, a growing network of excellence brings together researchers and industry partners from many European countries. ELSA is coordinated by CISPA-Faculty Professor Dr. Mario Fritz. He wants the network to achieve a lot: "Artificial intelligence has the potential to improve all of our lives enormously – whether through better healthcare or completely new mobility options. But a blessing can quickly turn into a curse if the technology is not based on a secure foundation. I see enormous potential in bringing together Europe's top researchers through ELSA in order to tackle the major challenges of AI and machine learning together."

In addition to pooling expertise, CISPA researcher Lea Gröber also values another aspect of international research cooperation: "Other regions and countries around the world have a very different socio-cultural background to us here in Germany and Europe. Their cyber security risks and needs are often completely different." Gröber is researching so-called Usable Security in CISPA Faculty Dr. Katharina Krombholz’s research group. Gröber says: "Our research is very user-centered, which is why it is important for us to look at the population as a whole. Everyone has the right to a secure internet." Together with Krombholz, Gröber has already traveled to Pakistan several times. "I got involved in the Recypher project through a colleague from Saarland University, Dr. Nida Bajwa", explains Krombholz. In Recypher, researchers from Saarland University and CISPA are working together with colleagues from four Pakistani partner universities to create cybersecurity awareness centers at selected universities in Pakistan, to connect Pakistani students with companies in the IT security sector and thus to give them the opportunity to work in this industry. According to Krombholz, she has already worked with outstanding young researchers in Pakistan. "The majority of applicants who come from universities in Pakistan are accepted at elite universities in America because they are so good. In Germany, we are keep talking about the shortage of skilled professionals. We should try to attract good people from there", says Krombholz.

Researchers from South Asia can gain insight into research at CISPA through the "CISPA Summer Voluntary Internship Program". For eight to twelve weeks, students who are interested in research questions relating to cybersecurity, machine learning, data protection, cryptography, formal methods and related topics can come to CISPA and be coached by experienced researchers. Networking is immensely important in research, too.

Click here for the digital issue of Zine 6